holiday celebrations

Many churches in the Peoria area are offering online as well as in-person services this Christmas season.

This week, Christians will celebrate the birth of Jesus. According to the Gospel of Matthew, wise men from the east gave presents to newborn Jesus. 

“And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another path.”

Peoria area churches are finding new paths to celebrate Christmas 2020. 

Christ’s Church of the Valley in Peoria celebrates “Christmas Under the Stars” outdoors—to provide social distancing.

According to CCV, the outdoor services at 4, 5:30 and 7 p.m. Christmas Eve “are spaced and charming for the whole family.

“After a year like 2020, we’re thrilled to provide a space to slow down and behold the simple joys of Christmas,” according to the CCV website. The Christ’s Church of the Valley Christmas services can also be viewed online at ccv.church/watch. 

For its Christmas Eve and Christmas services, New Life Community Church offers online viewing (newlifeonline.com) or in-person worship at its Peoria location.

Similarly, Christ Church in Peoria will be streaming its noon, 1:30, 3 and 4:30 p.m. Christmas Eve services at christaz.online.church.

 The First Southern Baptist Church of Glendale—which has been celebrating Christmas for nearly 100 years, since 1926—plans to live stream its Christmas services.

Christmas at First Southern “definitely has been changed by the pandemic,” said Aimee Willis, a church administrative assistant.”

She said the annual “Christmas Cantata” concert “has been canceled, unfortunately.”

But, she said, the church’s youth group decorated the sanctuary with the 47th annual “Hanging of the Green” event.

First Southern Baptist Church of Glendale has online worship services and bible study available from its website, fsbcg.org.

In addition to in-person services, Harvest Church of Glendale also has archived sermons and live services at hcaz.org. Harvest Church has a 5 p.m. Christmas Eve service.

The Church of Christ on West Olive in Peoria also has in-person and online services at westolive.com on Wednesdays and Sundays.

According to the Central Christian Church Glendale website, “The elders and pastors have been regularly monitoring the trend in new COVID-19 cases published by the Arizona Department of Health Services and have been seeking to follow best practices for minimizing spread of the virus (if someone were to unknowingly be contagious).  We are currently meeting in-person and are simultaneously live-streaming the service for those who are not quite ready to join us in-person yet.”

The Christmas Eve service at 6 p.m. will stream at glendalechristianonline.com.

At Shepherd of the Desert Lutheran Church in Sun City, as at houses of worship around the West Valley, attendance at services has been a rollercoaster.

“In the beginning of the pandemic back in March, some of our services had five people,” said Judy Yates assistant for ministry. “Pastor Daniel (Defassio) says, ‘That’s OK- if we have one person there, that’s church.’ But we’re up to 50 to 60 people, now. 

“We have several people worshipping with us who are not Lutherans-just because we’re open. And that’s OK, we have open communion.”

While the church will celebrate with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services, another big change was Desert Lutheran did not have its annual Christmas party.

“Us Lutherans, we eat a lot,” Yates said with a chuckle. “Typically, we have a lot of meals -which we haven’t been able to do.”

Instead of a pre-Christmas feast and “posada” with pinatas, the church held a “Christmas Experience Drive-thru” Sunday, Dec. 20.

Bags of candy and other treats were passed out to kids in cars, Yates said.

“It’s drive-thru only, nobody gets out of their cars,” she stressed. 

Chabad of Goodyear held a “Drive-In Chanukah Spectacular” Dec. 13.

The event was “A success beyond our expectations,” said Rabbi Berel Zaklikofsky“People came from all over the Valley to be part of this.”

Similarly, while providing weekly services via Zoom, Temple Beth Shalom of the West Valley held a menorah lighting ceremony in the temple’s Sun City parking lot.

Chanukah, or Hanukkah, began Dec. 10 and ended Dec. 18.